Broncos should keep pace for one of AFC’s top seeds



The last time the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs got together, Tim Tebow was quarterbacking the Broncos and Kyle Orton was quarterbacking the Chiefs.

It was Jan. 1 in Denver and the game meant everything to Denver, nothing to Kansas City.

Tebow, then a legend, now just plain terrible according to teammates on the New York Jets, completed only six of 22 passes for 60 yards.

Orton wasn’t much better, throwing for 180 yards, most of that between the 40-yard lines. Dexter McCluster scored the game’s only touchdown as the Chiefs won 7-3.

Shades of the no-facemask days and a real bummer in Denver.

Brief bummer.

San Diego beat Oakland later in the day to reaffirm Tebow’s greatness and hand the Broncos the AFC West crown with an 8-8 mark.

You know the rest of the story:  Tebow is gone, now the backup to Mark Sanchez and Orton is a backup Cowboy, not a starting Chief.

In keeping with the present tense, the Broncos of today won’t get you much money in Vegas even if they win the Super Bowl, and nobody in their right mind would bet a sawbuck on the Chiefs to have two successful plays in a row, let alone actually cover a point spread or win a game.

Hank Stram must be rolling over in his grave as the two teams meet today for what must be the 7,000,000,000th time in Kansas City.

Denver is 7-3, on a five-game winning streak and already counting down to another AFC West title. Kansas City hasn’t won in seven contests on its way to a 1-9 record. The few Chiefs fans that do show up will be clad mostly in black, not the previously popular bright red.

And, oh yes, the quarterback matchup will be slightly different than in the last meeting, with the edge decidedly in Denver’s favor this time around:  Peyton Manning vs. Brady Quinn — yes, that Brady Quinn, the same guy who at one point was third fiddle to Tebow and Orton in Denver.

Quinn, recently concussed, will get the start in front of Matt Cassel, not recently, but constantly terrible, and the same QB who was Josh McDaniels’ personal favorite to lead the Broncos to the promised land, even ahead of the afore-mentioned Orton.

Real quickly now, Bronco fans, let’s review our choices for Quarterback of the Future:  Cassel, Orton, Quinn, Tebow or Manning?

I thought so. Now, back to reality.

The Broncos, with Manning at the helm, have the fifth-ranked passing offense in the NFL. The Chiefs, with Cassel doing most of the damage, have the 28th-ranked passing offense.

Enough of that. There are two things that should concern the Broncos today —­ and they both have to do with the rushing game.

One is the Bronco rushing game. Denver has to replace Willis McGahee at running back. McGahee went down with a knee injury last week that will keep him out at least the remainder of the regular season. McGahee provided consistent pounding up the middle that kept opposing defenses from coming hell bent for leather toward Manning.

Now, Ronnie Hillman, Lance Ball and maybe Knowshon Moreno (remember him?) will split the load. If you think that means more swing passes and efforts to get those guys to the perimeter than was the pounding up the middle of McGahee, you’re right on. Denver must learn to live with these guys the rest of the year.

They will.

The second concern — and absolutely the only other thing Denver must worry about — is the rushing game of Kansas City.

Jamaal Charles is one of the top five or six running backs in football. He already has nearly 900 yards on almost 5 yards a carry. Hello:  He’s good!

The Chiefs, even in losing nine games, average nearly 150 rushing yards a game ­— before panicking and having to find a way to complete a pass in the red zone.

Denver has given up almost 300 rushing yards to the Chiefs in a recent game. They have given up nearly 200 yards twice more. The Chiefs will try to stuff it down Denver’s throat. They have no choice.

Their problem: These aren’t your mother’s Broncos.

Denver’s defense is now a force — and stopping the run has been a real reason why. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has mixed and matched and put big bodies into the middle and it has worked.

D.J. Williams has come back at linebacker and adds to that mix.

The Chiefs won’t be able to run nearly enough to combat Manning and his passing attack.

I’ll take my 8-2 record picking with or against Denver and say the Broncos win Bye Week 
No. 2, 28-14, and keep the chase for one of the top seeds in the AFC alive.

Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.


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